Molly Burke at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting by World Economic Forum https://flic.kr/p/2iiZabL (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Molly Burke at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting by World Economic Forum https://flic.kr/p/2iiZabL (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Liberals, NDP and Bloc Vote Down User Generated Content Safeguards as MPs Defend Deeply Flawed Bill C-10 Committee Study

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continued its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 yesterday, spending the full two hours debating a Conservative amendment that would have restored the user generated content safeguards that were removed when Section 4.1 was dropped from the bill. The Conservative amendment effectively offered the parties a “do-over” by acknowledging that the removal had sparked huge public concern over the implications for freedom of expression and net neutrality. Nevertheless, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc voted down the motion, with the NDP not even bothering to speak to the issue at all.

While the three parties were not supportive of addressing the user generated content concerns, they were quick to defend any suggestions that the study of Bill C-10 had been flawed and excluded important voices. For example, when Conservative MP Rachael Harder began reading comments from Scott Benzie on the harms to digital-first Canadian creators who did not appear before the committee (citing the likes of Lily Singh, Molly Burke and thousands more), Liberal MP Anthony Housefather jumped in with a “point of clarification” that the Conservatives could have invited Benzie as a witness (he said the same to me in a Twitter exchange). Bloc MP Martin Champoux also took issue with suggestions that the consultation had been incomplete, stating that there had been 121 witnesses.

To be clear, there has not been anywhere close to 121 witnesses in the committee’s study of Bill C-10. The committee’s study was divided into two: a study about Bill C-10 as the committee launched into hearings before the bill had even cleared second reading in the House of Commons (I wrote about the issue here) and a second study on Bill C-10 after second reading was completed. Excluding government officials and ministers, the committee heard from 11 individuals and organizations during part one (I appeared on February 5th) and 30 individuals and groups during part two (I appeared a second time on May 17th). There are certainly many appearances from department officials and several groups were invited back when their appearances were cut short by parliamentary business. But the reality is that the committee heard from a total 41 individuals and groups, not 121. Incredibly, there were only four independent experts appearing as individuals with the committee barely pretending to seek out independent, expert opinions or advice on the bill.

Not only are the number of witnesses relatively small for a bill of this importance, but who was excluded is notable as well. As Harder pointed out to the committee, it did not hear from digital-first creators, who are perhaps the most affected by the legislation given the decision to regulate user generated content. The committee also did not hear from experts on discoverability such Professor Fenwick McKelvey, who was good enough to do a study on the issue for Canadian Heritage but didn’t appear before committee (he is on this week’s Law Bytes podcast). It did not hear from experts on the CRTC such as Monica Auer from Canada’s Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, who today has a lengthy analysis in Cartt.ca on why the CRTC needs to be fixed before it is granted more powers. It did not hear from experts on European regulation, which took many more years to develop and is far more sophisticated than Bill C-10.

The list goes on: professors such as Emily Laidlaw and Dwayne Winseck have been vocal about the bill, but did not appear. Expert groups such as the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Open Media, and CIPPIC regularly appear before the CRTC, but did not appear on Bill C-10. The myriad of online services ranging from podcast apps to audiobook platforms did not appear. And the “web giants”, who are the target of the legislation generally didn’t appear either, with only Netflix appearing before the committee, despite the legislation specifically now targeting companies such as Youtube and Spotify.

The impact of not having key witnesses appear before committee has become increasingly obvious as clause-by-clause has proceeded. The reality is that the MPs may be well-meaning, but there is too much they simply don’t know about the bill and its implications. This includes the numerous terms that are not defined, the likely impact on creators, the consequences of discoverability, and the ability to implement provisions that are not found anywhere else in the world among them. Without that knowledge, many simply revert to platitudes about making web giants pay, instead of acknowledging the obvious: the committee’s study of Bill C-10 has been deeply flawed and embarrassingly incomplete. As MP Kevin Waugh told committee yesterday, “Bill C-10 is a disaster now. We need to take a step back.”

15 Comments

  1. What is the rush on this bill as presently constituted?

  2. Justa Reader says:

    That’s really funny. They know exactly why they’re rushing it through, but they have no idea what they’re supposed to pretend it’s for. If this passes, why bother even making up talking points for new legislation in the future?

    Interviewing a “Youtube Broadcaster” would have helped since that could be millions of Canadians, so we’d have an example of who that is supposed to be, and MPs could pretend they knew.

  3. And all 3 parties have lost my vote. If they’re all willing to screw over Canadians this easily, they’re not getting my vote regardless of their other policies. It’s a deal-breaker for me, the internet is the backbone of both my private and professional life and I’m pretty much that’s also the case for many Canadians.

  4. The mantra “Make the web giants pay” speaks volumes about the priorities and prejudices of the politicians supported this bill.

    Instead of trying to understand why there are no Canadian web giants, they call these companies immoral and demand a slice of the pie. Instead of focusing on legitimate issues like privacy and anti-competitive behavior, they focus on fake issues like discoverability and cultural sovereignty. Instead of looking at the economic impact of this bill on consumers, they just keep repeating the web giants will pay.

    I wonder what these geniuses will do if the Canadian content YouTube decides to promote is Rebel News and videos of Trudeau wearing blackface.

    • Tyler Vincent says:

      If the Canadian government cared about Canadian content, rather than regulating user generated content, they would draft bills to punish big tech for censoring Canadian content and politicians, to, at the very least, protect themselves and democracy from events like the big tech anti-Trump coup d’état for example, when they banned the sitting president of the United States on all the major platforms.

      Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed a Historic anti-Big Tech censorship bill allowing users to sue them for censorship.

      If the Trudeau regime actually cared, they would create and promote their own domestic platform, rather than demand tens of millions of platforms around the planet change and amend their entire platform code base and content to adopt Canadian government regulations, potentially blocking them in Canada if they refuse.

      Acting as a Global NWO internet Czar will blow up in their faces, plus big tech already promotes domestic mainstream propaganda conspiracy theories 24/7.

      The best and the brightest called it out for what it is:

      “Granting a government agency authority over legal user generated content — particularly when backed up by the government’s musings about taking down websites — doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy,” said Peter Menzies, a former commissioner of the CRTC.

  5. So the only federal party left that supports free speech is the Green Party. I never thought I’d see the day the NDP would turn their back on free speech, but they confirmed that they have no interest in protecting such things, apparently. Seriously, where is Charlie Angus? It’s immensely disappointing to see and it makes me wonder if free speech online even has a future in Canada any more.

    • I hope you’re right. There are a number of interviews with Annamie Paul which do not support free speech, which worries me, but a party is not its leader, and the Green party backed freedom of expression in the past.

      The leader of the PPC strongly backs freedom of expression, the #1 issue on the platform. Of course, the leader is not the party, and the party scares me.

      • What’s worse is that, if I’m wrong on this, then there is literally no political party in Canada that can be trusted on these issues. At that point, what does a voter really do in a situation like that when not voting is effectively an endorsement to whoever else wins?

        • Or maybe, just maybe, all those people are right and you are wrong, and they are not selling out their principles at all. Just a thought.

          • Tyler Vincent says:

            “Granting a government agency authority over legal user generated content — particularly when backed up by the government’s musings about taking down websites — doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy,” said Peter Menzies, a former commissioner of the CRTC.

  6. Pingback: ● NEWS ● #MichaelGeist #Internet ☞ Liberals, NDP and Bloc Vote Down… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊)

  7. Something I haven’t seen talked about at all. Based on my (layman’s) reading of the bill, it looks as if C10 gives the CRTC to define virtually ANY website with at least video or audio content (and possibly not even limited to those) as a broadcaster. As a digital content creator, and a web programmer I’d really like to reserve the right to host my own work on my personally owned and controlled website without having to worry about being considered a broadcaster.

    I’d love a more expert opinion on this, in case I’m just interpreting it wrong.

    • You’re assessment is pretty much accurate. If you host a site and have content on it, you can be considered a broadcaster in the eyes of the CRTC. If this legislation is passed and remains unchallenged (unlikely given the likelihood of litigation to strike this unconstitutional law down), then the only thing you have left to protect yourself is how much this law will become enforced. The larger the player you are, the more likely you are going to be noticed.

      Believe me, I have my own news website and this bill represents an existential threat. If you want to know how the government thinks about content, then you can actually check out their breakdown of what would and won’t be considered regulated. I highlighted the section in a screenshot in an article I wrote a little while ago here: https://www.freezenet.ca/c-10-internal-memo-canadian-government-already-building-regulatory-hit-list/

      Geist posted the whole PDF here: https://www.michaelgeist.ca/2021/05/not-just-big-techbillc10/

      Note that the net the government is setting is REALLY wide and goes so far as to regulate foreign news sites (I’m sure that’s going to go over well with countries with international trade agreements with Canada).

      Hope that helps, though.

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